Climate Fiction: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre: Background information when reading Midnight at the Electric

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Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson X
Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski
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About this Book

Climate Fiction: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre

This article relates to Midnight at the Electric

Print Review

In Midnight at the Electric, it is the year 2065, and teenager Adri is part of a carefully selected group departing Earth forever to live on Mars. Although the story takes place less than 50 years from now, massive planetary destruction has already taken place. As Adri puts it early on, "there's no Miami and hardly any Bangladesh and no polar bears…and they're paying billions of dollars to start a colony on Mars because humans need an exit strategy."

Considered by some to be a sub-genre of science-fiction, and by others to be an entirely new genre, climate-fiction highlights climate change and its potential ramifications. Although books exploring man-made climate change date back to the '70s, it was only in 2007 that journalist Dan Bloom coined the term "cli-fi." Now, only one decade later, dozens of books fall under the definition of climate fiction, and the genre has seen an explosion in popularity. What potential does climate fiction have, outside of regular fiction? Like many great works of fiction, cli-fi can be an effective way to offer critiques on society, and the potential destination society is traveling toward. However, many believe that climate fiction is more powerful than that. As Sarah Stankorb writes in an article for Good, climate fiction makes "the unthinkable more proximate, or even intimate. It lets us into the truth of climate change in a new way, and it provides a new space where we can interrogate the forces that define our culture and changing world" (2016).

Intimacy may be an important word to focus on, here. Data released from the Yale Program on Climate Communication in 2016 shows that while nearly 60% of participants believed that global warming will harm people in the US, only 40% believed that it will hurt them, personally. This shows a lack of connection between the dangers of global warming and individuals' own futures within a world of climate change. But if climate fiction can connect people to the characters who are actually experiencing the devastations of eco-destruction, the audience may feel more empathetic and aware of these dangers. This is especially important in today's political landscape, in a world where the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement in June 2017, and where the setting of Midnight at the Electric seems more likely than not.

So, where does the future of climate fiction lie? With the recent surge in popularity, it is extending beyond books. The subject is being taught at educational institutions like Cambridge, Vanderbilt, and New York University; in an article for The Atlantic, J.K. Ullrich explains how the genre is bringing out real-life change, with the fusion of science, STEM, and cli-fi. According to Ullrich, climate fiction can help interest students in the sciences, and spark practical responses in reaction to related happenings across the globe. While Midnight at the Electric doesn't focus exclusively on the worrying phenomenon, the greater the number of books that explore potential impacts of eco-destruction, the greater the attention that will hopefully be paid to this global issue.

Filed under Books and Authors

This "beyond the book article" relates to Midnight at the Electric. It originally ran in July 2017 and has been updated for the May 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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